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Clarysse Johan
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Johan Clarysse


In his work, Johan Clarysse seizes upon the tradition of figuration to question the status of the image and how it functions today. In this he is not alone on the Belgian art scene. Gradually, he has managed to acquire his own place with an intriguing oeuvre full of double meanings and references, in which poetry and irony, intensity and distance enter into a surprising alliance. The works Clarysse presents here come from series from the last four years with the titles: ‘Les charmes discrets du pouvoir’, ‘To be guilty or innocent, that isn’t the question’ and ‘Suspicious meetings’. In them, concepts such as identity formation, communication and non-communication and the complexity of our human drives and desires play a key role. In each case, the paintings are intended to be ‘enigmatic in a clear way’. They attract and confuse, they reveal and conceal. As he paints, he disrupts and intensifies the world.

The work stands out because of its own form and use of colour, its existential themes and its layered handling of paint and meanings. But also by the numerous references to the world of film, art history, literature and psychology, as well as by the space that he manages to preserve for the viewer to insert his own story and projections. His canvases exude an aesthetic power of their own. The ‘amoral pleasure of composition, colour, tone, brushwork’ that the painter experiences when creating his work remains tangible and palpable for the viewer and draws him inexorably into it.

Clarysse goes for a ‘subjective realism’, in which shapes and details are simplified. The alternation between suggestive and more finished parts, the use of saturated colours, the light-dark contrasts, subtle perspective distortions, the sporadic addition of texts and emblems, an abstract surface in a predominantly figurative image… these are all elements that create a Claryssian atmosphere of its own. The exciting moment just before or after a striking event and its psychological impact on the depicted figures evoke a world of wonder, alienation, introspection and ambiguity.

For Clarysse, a work is not finished when it flatters, but when there is electricity in it. To him, painting is an ideal medium for creating hybrid, ambiguous images.

This text is a compilation of text fragments about Clarysse’s work.


Johan Clarysse lives and works in Bruges. He produces paintings, drawings and collages. He studied philosophy at the KUL before starting his training in painting at the academies of Leuven and Bruges.

He was awarded the Anto Diez Prize for Painting (Ostend) in 1993 and the Dirk Boutsprijs (Leuven) in 1998.

Since 2000, he has exhibited in galleries and museums in Belgium and abroad, including Paris, Brussels, Cologne, Amsterdam, New York and Beijing. His work is in numerous collections, including those of the National Lottery, the Belgian State, the Province of West Flanders, Museum Dr. Guislain, Museum Deinze and Leiestreek (MUDEL), Broelmuseum in Kortrijk, University of Antwerp, the Fundaçion cultural Knecht- Drenth in Spain and the Modern Chinese Art Foundation.

A first monograph on his work ‘Why october & other questions’ was published by Ludion with contributions from Marc Ruyters and Stef Van Bellingen, among others. A second monograph ‘Walden & other suspicions’ was published a few years ago by MER Paper Kunsthalle with contributions by prof. Willem Elias, Isabelle De Baets and Hans Theys. A new art book will soon be published by Borgerhoff & Lamberigts.

Academie voor Schone Kunsten, Leuven
Academie voor Schone Kunsten, Brugge
Licenciaat Filosofie en Agogiek – KUL, Leuven

2013: Cité des Arts International, Parijs (FR)
2006: Fundacion Knecht-Drenth, Alicante (ES)

Solo exhibitions

Jeu d’amour, jeu de hasard – Galerie Lloyd, Oostende

Suspicious Meetings – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent

When you want ruffles, you need edges (met Andrea Radai) – O-68 Art Gallery, Velp (NL)

Guilty or innocent, that isn’t the question – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent
Can a cow be called a horse? – Chassé Galerie, Breda (NL)

Gedaanten van macht – O-68 Art Gallery, Velp (NL)

Les charmes discrets du pouvoir – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent

What’s in a mirror? – Galerie Albus Lux, Roosendaal (NL)
Johan Clarysse, Luc Dondeyne en Reniere&Depla – Cultuurcentrum Hasselt

Looking at (for) the invisible,– Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent
Beyond the gaze – Das Belgisches Haus, Keulen (DE)

Suspicious landscapes (cat) – Galerie Het Zwart Huis, Knokke
Looking at (for) the invisible – Cité des Arts, Parijs (FR)

Suspicious portraits (cat) – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent
Sehnsucht satellietproject – Kasteel van Gaasbeek, Lennik & CC Dilbeek
B.Art (Belgian contemporary art), Art Gent (cat) – Flanders Expo, Gent

Hidden Agenda – Cypresgalerie, Leuven

Johan Clarysse recente werken – Ververs Gallery, Amsterdam (NL)
Change is coming – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent

Confessiones – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent
Is evil of great importance to the good? – Galerie Het Zwart Huis, Knokke
Why november? & other questions (cat) – Museum van Deinze en de Leiestreek, Deinze

Diva’s (don’t) die – Kasteel van Gaasbeek, Lennik

Why october? & other questions – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent

Are shadow and substance identical? – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent

Mercatorgalerie, Antwerpen (curator Gerda van der Kerken)
Beeldspelingen/jeu d’images (met B. Kaizman) – CIAP, Hasselt

Alle Lust will Ewigkeit – CC De Spil, Roeselare

Geluk en genot – De Factorij, HIG Schaarbeek-Brussel
‘Ceci n’est pas de la tristesse’ (cat) – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent

Le combat cessa faute de combattants – Galerie S&H Debuck, Gent
Brugge Culturele Hoofdstad 2002, Slangparcours (curator Ludovic Devlam) – Brugge

Inside/outside (cat) – Kunsthuis Loosveldt, Oostende
Les 3 Arts – Ateliers de Belleville, Parijs (FR)

Home is where the heart is (cat) – Galerie Anderwereld/Katuin, Groningen (NL)
Europa Artline 1999 (met Luc Berghe) – Borken (DE)

Group exhibitions

As from 1997

Melancholy, the poetry of the mind (cat, curator Joannes Késenne) – Adornesdomein, Brugge
The Solo project – Art Fair Brussels
Misfigure, Air Biekorf 6.0 – Exporuimte Poortesloge, Brugge

Niemand is een eiland (cat) – Kunstenfestival Damme
Biënnale Hedendaagse Kunst (cat) – Kasteel van Poeke, Aalter
Kunstveiling t.v.v. Tejo vzw
Air Biekorf 5.0, antwoordtentoonstelling op Sylvie De Meerleer (cat) – Cultuurcenturm Brugge

END Art Project – Empiricical Nonsense gallery, New York (USA)
Kunstbeurs t.v.v. Leuvens Stamcelonderzoek – Faculty Club, Leuven
Biënnale Hedendaagse Kunst (cat) – Kasteel van Poeke, Aalter
Art Autun, Biennal of Contemporary Art (cat, curator Reniere&Depla) – Autun (FR)
Le parole,le immagini del desiderio (cat) – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent
De blik/Le regard/the gaze (curator Daan Rau) – Morbee Gallery, Knokke

Saudade – Kunstenfestival Watou
Exile, Air Biekorf 3.0 –  Cultuurcentrum Brugge

Intimacy – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent
Faces – Artelli Gallery, Antwerpen
Over het verlangen en de troost, Kunstenfestival Watou – Watou
Wie is er bang van de boze wolf (curator J .Késenne) – Stadhuis Genk
Artist talk annex presentatiemoment – O-68 Art Gallery, Velp (NL)
I’ve never lied to you ( met Sylvie Meerleer en Matthias Knockaert) – Bogardenkapel, Brugge
BAD (Belgian Art and Design) –  ICC Gent
I’ve never lied to you (Johan Clarysse, Sylvie de Meerleer en Matthias Knockaert) – Bogardenkapel, Brugge

Dark Rooms – Pak (Platform Aktuele Kunst), Brugge
BAD (Belgian Art and Design) –  ICC Gent

Verzamelde verhalen #8, Kunstenfestival Watou – Watou
Prestige IV: no comment (curator Nicole Van der Stapele) – Diverse locaties Gent
De-generaties: Elias et ses compagnons de routes (80 artistes) – CC De Markten, Brussel
Pelicano Kunstveiling, Paleis der Academiën, Brussel
Art Hague art fair (met O-68 Art Gallery) – Den Haag (NL)
Sentimos: portretten en landschappen – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent
Ecce homo/zie de mens – De Mijlpaal, Heusden-Zolder (NL)
Kunstbeurs Leuvens Stamcelinstituut – Faculty Club, Leuven

Who is who? Verhalen en verzamelingen – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent
Benefietveiling – Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle
Seascapes (met Jan Van riet, Yves Beaumont, Jan De Vlieghere en Bruno Hardt) – Zwart Huis, Knokke

Donkere Kamers – Museum Dr. Guislain, Gent
De dweil als alibi (organisatie Alibi Genootschap) – CC De Spil, Roeselare

The Big Draw – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent
Traction Avant – CIAP, Hasselt

Art Brussels ( Nationale Loterij) – Brussel
Didier Verriest, 80 atelierbeelden (cat) –  Platform Zebrastraat, Gent
Nerveuze vrouwen (cat) – Museum Dr. Guislain, Gent
Paradijs/Paradis/Paradise – Galerij S&H De Buck, Gent

La part des anges (cat, curator Reniere&Depla) – Villa de Olmen , Wieze
Suspicious Landscapes – Pinsart gallery, Brugge

Skulls, skeletons & bones, contemporary Belgian art (cat, met Thomas Lerooy, Karin Borghouts, Stephanie Leblon…) –  Hotel Andromeda, Oostende
PPP (cat, Flag-art) – MU.zee, Oostende

Fading (cat, curator Sven Van Stichelen) – Museum Elsene, Brussel
Triënnale Mandelart (cat) – Oostrozebeke
Uit het geheugen: over weten en vergeten (cat) – Museum Dr. Guislain, Gent

De Canvascollectie (cat) – BOZAR, Brussel
Het spel van de waanzin (cat) – Museum Dr. Guislain, Gent
Merci, madame Petronelle (cat) – Modern Chinese Art Foundation, Peking

Gras dat verder groeit: miniaturen (cat) – Boekentoren, Gent

Art Brussels (cat, met Galerie Geukens-Devil) – Heizel, Brussel
25 jaar De Brakke Grond – De Brakke Grond, Amsterdam (NL)
Aanwinsten 2001-2005, collectie Provincie West-Vlaanderen – Lakenhallen, Ieper
Making sense in the city (met Orla Barry, Els Dietvorst, Francys Alys, Stefaan van Biesen…) – Rijksuniversiteit Gent

Voorbij de grens – De Markten, Brussel

Fast Foot, kunstproject Vredeseilanden (curator Stef Van Bellingen) – Gent
Voorbij de grens (cat) – Museum van Deinze en de Leiestreek, Deinze

Reis Nécessaire (curator Michel Dewilde) – De Bond, Brugge
Voorbij de grens (cat) – Vlaams Cultuurhuis De Brakke Grond, Amsterdam (NL)

Eva, Venus, Madonna: beelden van vrouwelijkheid (curator:Joannes Késenne) – Oud Klooster, Maasmechelen

Kunst In Huis @ De Spil, Roeselaere (curator Bieke Demeester)
Imago 2001, rondreizende tentoonstelling (cat) – Knokke, Oostende, Torhout)
10de Biënnale Hedendaagse Kunst in Vlaanderen – Kasteel van Poeke, Aalter

Het oorkussen van de melancholie (cat) – Museum Schone Kunsten, Gent

Commentaren in Woord en Beeld (cat) – Conservatorium Oostende

Rondreizende tentoonstelling ‘Creatie… communicatie..creatie’ – CC Strombeek, Bever & CC Berchem & CC De Spil, Roeselaere

‘Creatie… communicatie..creatie’ (curator Jan Verhaeghe) – De Bond, Brugge
Parcours d’été (cat) – Centre d’art contemporain de Luxembourg, Florenville

Lezing in het kader van een lezingenreeks over hedendaagse kunst en… de eeuwige odyssee van de schilderkunst – O-68 Art Gallery, Velp (NL)

‘Walden & other suspicions’: lezing in kader van een lezingenreeks over melancholie en de gelijknamige expo in Museum Dr. Guislain – Bibliotheek Gent

‘Over maffiosi, kloktijd, Foucault, de macht en onmacht van de kunst en de noodzaak om te schilderen….’: Artist talk n.a.v. de expo les charmes discrets du pouvoir – Galerie S&H De Buck, Gent

Lezing over eigen werk n.a.v. expo ’Vrouwenkuren‘ – IPSOC Hogeschool, Kortrijk

‘Er is een zien voorbij de blik’: atelierontmoeting op vraag van Vormingsplus Zuid-West Vlaanderen

Deelmane symposium ‘Uit het geheugen. Over weten en vergeten’ – Museum Dr. Guislain, Gent & IPSOC Hogeschool, Kortrijk

‘Over Leonardo, stenen tafelen, vredesduiven en toeval‘: tweegesprek met Filip Geerardijn over kunst en psychoanalyse, n.a.v. Dag van de kunstuitleen – Kunst in Huis, Leuven

Monograph ‘Why october & other questions’ (with contributions from Marc Ruyters and Stef Van Bellingen, among others) – Ludion
Monograph ’Walden & other suspicions’ (with contributions from Willem Elias, Isabelle De Baets and Hans Theys) – MER Paper Kunsthalle

1993: Anto Diez Prize for Painting, Oostende
1998: Dirk Boutsprijs, Oostende